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Blue Jackets collapse late again

A solid defensive and goaltending effort, wasted

NHL: DEC 17 Blue Jackets at Bruins Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After two losses in Florida, the Columbus Blue Jackets traveled to colder climes to face the league-leading Boston Bruins. Could they salvage a point?

Um. No. But it was closer than you’d think!

The start of the game was delayed by nearly 15 minutes due to a pregame ceremony which honored Patrice Bergeron for passing the 1000 point mark earlier this season. That’s well deserved of course, but why not just, you know, start the ceremony earlier? Why delay the game from the scheduled time? I have other stuff to do today, and don’t want to spend any more time on hockey today than I have to.

First Period

For early afternoon games, it’s always a question as to whether the Jackets will be awake enough, but the initial shifts were a good back-and-forth affair, with neither team getting good looks on the net. Then, the momentum shifted to Boston. They drew the first penalty, with Vladislav Gavrikov called for hooking. Never a good sign when one of the key penalty killers is in the box. Boston, who has the third best power play, capitalized:

Just around the 10 minute mark, the Blue Jackets got a power play of their own, and it gave them the opportunity to get their first shot on goal of the game. Yeah, it took that long. Yeesh. Patrik Laine had a great look that drew iron, and Johnny Gaudreau got a shot on goal, but that was it. A second power play shortly thereafter was unable to get anything going.

Boston has the best penalty kill in the league and it shows, though this Jackets power play could make any kill look good. The difference in the two teams with the man advantage is so stark. The Jackets move soooooooo sloooooooooow. The Bruins, meanwhile, are constantly moving around the zone, and every pass or shot happens quickly.

Credit to the Jackets’ kill, however, as they held the Bruins without a shot during their second power play. Mathieu Olivier and Cole Sillinger were paired together as a third PK unit, and got two shorthanded rushes on a single shift. Good to see.

The penalty was again taken by Gavrikov, and that is worrying.

The period ended with a second penalty by Charlie Coyle, and the Jackets burned a minute of game time on the delayed penalty. Gaudreau took a stick to the face around the Boston net, but didn’t get a second penalty drawn. Marcus Bjork got off one good bomb before the period ended.

Why is Bjork back on the first power play unit? I thought it was interesting that Brad Larsen experimented with a 5F unit in the last game, and it’s disappointing to see him go away from that after just one chance. He’s worried about the lack of defensive help against a shorthanded chance, but is Bjork your best weapon to stop that anyway? I think it’s worth the risk to go all-offense.

Second Period

The power play didn’t score, of course, but the second unit got a couple of good looks. The Jackets seemed to get some momentum from that, and got a lot more push on 5v5 through the first half of the period. One thing that stood out was more active sticks, which created turnovers and disrupted any sort of offensive flow for Boston in the neutral zone or entering the offensive zone.

The game got really chippy, and the Jackets capitalized. First, Rat Extraordinaire Brad Marchand picked a fight with Gaudreau away from the play. Johnny was frustrated and knocked Marchand’s stick away as he tried to escape the situation. Marchand went off for cross-checking, and Gaudreau went off for slashing. He was not happy about offsetting penalties there. They certainly were not equivalent infractions.

Both sides got good lucks at 4v4, but the Jackets got a second chance and Gavrikov drew a high stick penalty from David Krejci. Poor Gavy, he had been in a face shield for a few games and was back to the visor here.

At 4v3, and with Gaudreau in the box, Larsen turned to Kent Johnson, Laine, Jenner, and Bjork. They moved the puck well and got good shots off. By the time Gaudreau got out of the box, Brandon Carlo lost his stick, and this gave the Jackets the space they needed to get the puck inside to Jenner, who sent a backhand shot top shelf to tie the game.

After an Andrew Peeke penalty for knocking a player over in front of the Columbus net, the Bruins once again struck with a power play goal. Erik Gudbranson cleared the front of the crease. That’s good! But then he tried to get back into position to block the shot from the circle, but didn’t get there in time. How many times has he mistimed a block this season on a successful shot? It’s like it always goes past before his knee gets down. Even worse, his positioning shields the shot from the goalie. I know I’m more focused on him because I hate the signing, but it feels like this kind of play happens way too often, and moreso with him than any other player.

Overall it was a much better period for the Jackets. They actually led the expected goals 2.42-2.11 through 40, though most of that was on special teams. At 5v5, the xG was 1.56-0.51 in Boston’s favor.

Third Period

Rough break for the Jackets as Cole Sillinger took a hard hit in open ice, and did not return to the bench.

Tarasov did all he could to keep it a one goal game, making multiple acrobatic saves.

After a Roslovic high stick, the Bruins expanded their lead on a delayed penalty. Taylor Hall got the rebound goal, flanked by Tim Berni and Gavrikov, but untouched.

Like has happened so often this season, the Jackets crumbled in the face of adversity. Just 19 seconds after the Hall goal, the Bruins piled on:

That was the game, effectively, though the Jackets did get another power play goal, this one a Patrik Laine one-timer.

Jeremy Swayman nearly got a goalie goal on the empty net, so that would have been cool.

Final Thoughts

A pretty decent effort overall from the Jackets. They hung with a really strong opponent, on the road, for 50 minutes. But, you play 60 for a reason.

The Sillinger injury is a bummer, especially if it’s his second concussion of the season (he suffered one in training camp). Even before that, however, his line was struggling.

Tarasov is a DUDE. He only gave up one goal at 5v5 today. It was a bit curious that he was starting his second straight game, but it’s hard to fault the decision. If you want to win games, or if you want to play skilled youngsters, then Tarasov is the right choice. He has earned the starter’s job. But what do we do about Elvis Merzlikins? Due to his contract and his performance he has no trade value, so it’s in the team’s interest for him to rediscover his game. He has to play to do that. I’d prefer to see a 1:1 rotation between Tarasov and Elvis (or two on, two off).

With the Sillinger injury, Roslovic got to double shift for a bit. Once the Jackets were down multiple goals, Lars went back to the 29/38/13 top line, and Roslovic got Nyquist and Chinakhov. Laine’s numbers were great with either line, but the first line struggled without him.

Up Next

After a rough road trip, the Jackets return to the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena on Monday night to face the Dallas Stars.